Liverpool 4-1 Cardiff
Premier League, Anfield
October 27, 2018
Goals: Salah 10′, Mane 66′, 87′, Shaqiri 84′; Paterson 77′
Important Early Goal
In theory Cardiff were 4-4-1-1, but in reality their formation without the ball was more like 6-3-1.
It was a familiar obstacle for Liverpool to overcome, especially at Anfield against a team fighting to stay in the league, but so often these games have dragged on goalless.
Not so much these days, and not so much today. A barrage of shots saw the ball eventually land at the feet of Salah and the Egyptian slotted home at the far post.
The rest of the first half was fairly dull, but it would have felt a lot duller and more frustrating for Liverpool fans had it not been for the fact their team were already ahead.
The last half-hour banished the memory of what had or rather what hadn’t occurred in the previous hour.
Three goals in 30 minutes put daylight between Liverpool and their opponents, with the scoreline finally reflecting the difference in quality between the two sides and sending the home crowd home on a high.
One of the best ways to get past a side who defend deep and in numbers is to be unpredictable.
Liverpool may have played the same shape as the one they used in the previous game, but this setup was much more fluid.
Players were regularly swapping roles, and if they found themselves out of position following a set-piece they weren’t in a rush to get back to their original berth.
Virgil van Dijk often roamed forward, Kolo Toure style, and hung around in midfield to provide an option as the team were building attacks.
It helped the players conserve energy rather than rushing to return to their positions, saving their legs for future challenges.
SMS Send a Message
Shaqiri, Mane and Salah helped Liverpool out of a potentially tricky situation after Cardiff pulled a goal back against the run of play.
Mane kicked things off. It looked like he had run out of space—a familiar story for Liverpool’s attackers in this game—but when the ball deflected into his path he took his chance, blasting the ball left-footed past Neil Etheridge.
Shaqiri then got in on the act from the bench. He’s so often been the player to help get the best from Salah in recent weeks, assisting a number of the Egyptian’s goals and distracting defenders, but today Salah returned the favour.
The Swiss finished with the calmness of a seasoned striker, before Salah and Mane linked up and Mane dinked over Etheridge for the fourth.
With Liverpool moving back to the top of the Premier League with this victory, having an on-form front line will send a message to their rivals.
Lallana’s Signal Fading
Adam Lallana started just his second game of the season, replacing Shaqiri in the right-sided attacking position.
He may have still been a little rusty, as little he did came off. There was the usual one touch too many, and his final ball rarely found its man.
The game proved that Lallana is a squad option and nothing more, and he’s not going to challenge for a place in the side when Klopp needs to pick his best XI for the big games.
He was the first player to be substituted, and his replacement, Shaqiri, immediately added an extra spark to proceedings.
Squad players have their place in a successful team though, and Lallana as his. He has so far played on the right and the left, and is also able to operate in the middle.
But once he returns to full match sharpness he needs to offer more in attack, be quicker and more decisive.
If Salah, Mane and Shaqiri are your latest iPhone, Lallana looks like a Nokia relic.
Ready for Arsenal
Liverpool now have a week’s rest before they face an Arsenal side who have made an impressive start under Unai Emery.
The north Londoners have been firing in attack, but can still look shaky in defence. This is something Klopp will be looking to take advantage of where some other teams haven’t.
Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez can expect to be restored to the starting lineup, while there is an argument to say that the team which started against Red Star in the week should also start at the Emirates, even if everyone is available.